New president officially takes office at Benedictine University
Partway through his speech at his official installation as the new president of Benedictine University, Michael Brophy reached under the podium and pulled out a thick packet of papers he said is known as the "red file."
In it was a collection of faculty suggestions for the 129-year-old school's goals and priorities.
Next, he pulled out a black binder crammed with proposals for how to reach those goals, amassed during the first months of his tenure at Benedictine, which began last August.
"I have been inspired by the work of so many during this year's visioning process," Brophy told the audience gathered inside the St. Procopius Abbey sanctuary in Lisle for the April 8 ceremony.
The formal installation of the new president was deferred as per standard university policy, said Ryan Blackburn, a university spokesman.
"Benedictine and Catholic universities generally allow for a period of orientation for the new president and community prior to the formal inauguration/installation," Blackburn said.
Brophy said his proposed mission strategy for Benedictine includes continuing the university's efforts to be an inclusive community and acting as a thought leader in Catholic higher education while helping students shape meaningful and fulfilled lives.
"By 2020, Benedictine University will be a top-choice institution," he said.
Brophy was chosen as the university's 11th president after the 2015 retirement of William Carroll, who became Benedictine's president in 1995.
Under Carroll's leadership, the university added branch campuses in Springfield and in Mesa, Arizona.
Brophy, 52, formerly served as president of Marymount California University, a small Catholic liberal arts college. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
St. Procopius Abbot Austin Murphy presided over the installation Mass, which preceded the installation ceremony.
"The mission of a Catholic university rests in Jesus," Murphy said. "The Catholic tradition does not say that faith is the same as understanding. It does say faith helps us in our efforts to reach understanding. Faith helps in the intellectual endeavor. Today, we pray for Dr. Brophy as he leads Benedictine University in that mission."
Bishop Daniel Conlon of the Joliet Diocese and representatives from 18 colleges across the country were in attendance, along with Benedictine faculty.
Brophy's family, including his three brothers, his wife, Tara, and their three children, also attended the installation. In all, an estimated 500 people, many in cap and gown, witnessed the ceremony.
The committee charged with finding a new president met with all 10 semifinalist candidates over a two-day period, for 90 minutes each, said James Melsa, chairman of the university's board of trustees.
Brophy, who lives in Naperville with his family, was the first candidate interviewed, he said.
Melsa said the search committee immediately recognized Brophy as a top candidate.
"We said, 'We can go home.' We never changed our mind," he said.
Seven monks from St. Procopius Abbey filed a lawsuit against the university's board of trustees in June 2015 in a dispute over the selection process. The monks contend that the university denied the Benedictine monks, the university's founders, the right to interview candidates and participate in the decision.
St. Procopius Abbot Austin Murphy said the suit is "going forward" but declined to elaborate on its status.
The ceremony included remarks from several Benedictine community leaders.
"I wish to offer you a heartfelt welcome to Lisle and Benedictine University," said Sister Mary Bratrsovsky, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
Professor Eric Camburn, chairman of the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a 1984 graduate of Benedictine.
Camburn noted that enrollment has increased from less than 1,000 to more than 6,000 students over the past three decades. The school was established in 1887 as St. Procopius College and was known as Illinois Benedictine College from 1971 through 1996.
"This place has changed tremendously since then," Camburn said. He said he is confident Brophy will preside over additional expansion and improvements.
Several speakers noted that Brophy already has made an impact.
"He has been an agent of positive change at the school," said Sam Carlos Ortega-Guerrero, Benedictine's student senate president.
Ortega-Guerrero cited changes to the graduation dress code and to campus parking restrictions and the installation of a new stop sign as examples of upgrades instituted since Brophy's arrival.
Brophy also has overseen the dedication of the Daniel L. Goodwin Hall of Business, which opened shortly after his arrival. Since August, he has traveled to the university's two branch campuses and visited the school's educational partners in China and Vietnam.
"The president outlines a vision, not just for where he works, but for higher education in general," said Peter Seely, Benedictine professor. "The president is on the front lines of everything. We anxiously await the next phase of greatness at Benedictine University."
In Brophy, said Seely, the search committee chose "an individual who cut his academic eye teeth on the liberal arts."
Brophy holds a degree in music and a master's in English and is an accomplished musician and filmmaker.
The president's brother, Martin Brophy, told a comical story about how Brophy led an effort to start a childhood band, despite the band members' lack of musical experience or a playlist. The incident demonstrates Brophy's tenacity, he said.
"His focus, hard work and determination have always made Michael a standout among his peers," said Martin. "The single most important factor in his ability to succeed is his ability to lead."
Brophy proved his musicianship after Murphy presented him with a papal blessing from Pope Francis.
Leaving the podium mid-speech, he headed to the piano to play a piece "for the most special person in my life."
He embraced his wife, Tara, before returning to the microphone.
"God bless you, God bless your families and God bless Benedictine University," he said.